AIDS support group to open office tomorrow

June 15, 1993|By Mary Gail Hare | Mary Gail Hare,Staff Writer

Carroll County Rainbow of Hope, a support group for people living with problems generated by the AIDS crisis, will act as a resource for HIV and AIDS patients at a new office opening tomorrow in Westminster.

Earlier this year, when Paulette Fernekees helped start the group for those "affected by and infected with HIV and AIDS," she said she envisioned a place where county patients and their families could go for help.

"We can access information quickly from different doctors and organizations," said Ms. Fernekees. "We can also direct patients in crisis and those who have not gotten immediate reaction from service providers."

The group will provide the latest information on traditional, holistic and alternative treatments, other support groups in the area, housing and meal programs, she said.

Volunteers, who will staff the office from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. weekdays, will help coordinate services for adults and children who are coping with the human immunodeficiency virus, which causes AIDS.

"People living with the illness can be a great resource for other patients," said Ms. Fernekees. "There is a lot of insensitivity from people who don't live with this problem every day."

Nona Barker, a certified HIV/AIDS counselor, calls the office "the first step in awakening everyone" to the crisis. Ms. Barker, who plans to volunteer at the office, hopes the group can increase awareness in the county.

"People see AIDS stories on TV and they turn the channel. There is a positive human side to this crisis," she said.

Lynda Gainor, deputy director of the Human Services Programs of Carroll County Inc., called the office "a positive movement and another outreach for the unmet needs here."

She called the need for an AIDS support group and volunteer network "greater than we all think."

"The [official] numbers of HIV and AIDS patients here are not high because everybody goes out of the county for services," she said.

Support group members will not publicly disclose the site of the office until they assess community reaction, Ms. Fernekees said.

Callers can obtain information on the office's location at 857-2999, which also serves as a 24-hour hot line.

"This group has to be so private," said Ms. Gainor. "They want to be able to help the community without problems from those who don't understand."

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